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Palestinians Begin Rebuilding; Belarus Accused of Hijacking Passenger Jet; Interview With Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired May 24, 2021 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The airspace of Belarus is unsafe for everyone.
GOLODRYGA (voice-over): The West accuses Belarus of hijacking a passenger plane to capture a journalist. We have an exclusive interview with the
foreign minister of Lithuania, where that plane was supposed to land, plus discussion with a close friend of that detained journalist and Eastern
Europe expert Anne Applebaum.
RIMA ABU RAHMAH, GAZA RESIDENT: there is no other option. We have to keep living.
GOLODRYGA: A special report on the Palestinians digging themselves out of the rubble.
ABRAHM LUSTGARTEN, PROPUBLICA: We're really talking about population change on the order of billions of people.
GOLODRYGA: Why climate change will transform global migration.
And finally: The times, they are a changing, but Bob Dylan's music still makes an impact. On his 80th birthday, we ask why.
GOLODRYGA: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.
A brazen affront to international peace and security, that's the White House's take, as governments accused Belarus of hijacking a Ryanair
passenger jet. On Sunday, the flight from Greece to Lithuania was intercepted and diverted to Minsk, where, upon landing, Belarusian
opposition journalists Roman Protasevich was detained, along with his girlfriend, who is a Russian national.
He had been living in exile in Lithuania. Fellow passengers have described how panic set in as the plane changed course.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED PASSENGER: So, when it was announced that we're going to land in Minsk, so Roman, really open the luggage door, take the luggage, and was
trying to split the things like computer, give it to girlfriend; iPhone or whatever, this goes home, take to girlfriend. I think he made a small
mistake, because there was around plenty people, so he could give things not to the girlfriend, which was also, I think, arrested.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Belarus claims that they received a bomb threat from Hamas, and that is why the flight was diverted.
But you can see on this map just how close that plane was to Lithuania before it turned back.
Joining me now is the Lithuanian foreign minister, Gabrielius Landsbergis.
Mr. Foreign Minister, thank you so much. We really appreciate you having us on.
First and foremost, let me get your response to what appears to be a brazen act by the Belarusian leader, Lukashenko, in bringing down this E.U. flight
and in detaining this journalist. What is your reaction?
GABRIELIUS LANDSBERGIS, LITHUANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, we call it a state-sponsored act of terrorism, which was not directed at any country or
We say that it's an international incident, because there were at least 12 European countries represented and six more countries from non-European
Union and U.S. as well.
Obviously, it was -- the reason was to take one person prisoner. But that meant that, for more than six hours, 123 people and four children were kept
hostage in the airport of Minsk.
GOLODRYGA: And this really is an unprecedented act.
And let me ask a bit about the reporter, Roman Protasevich, himself. He fled Belarus in 2019, has been living in Lithuania as a political exile.
What guarantees or what protections does he have in your country as a political exile?
LANDSBERGIS: Well, we haven't had him on our radar, so to say, in Lithuania, government, because it appears that he'd never applied for a
shelter, for political shelter in Lithuania.
He had a working visa. And, obviously, Belarusian and maybe Russian intelligence officers had -- following him for quite a while. And,
obviously, all of this was a an organized operation.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, it is chilling that we had Telegram messages that he had sent back to his colleagues prior to boarding that flight in Athens, where
he had spotted what he believed to be KGB agents following him as well. And, as we know, that apparently was the case..
We have unconfirmed reporting that his mother is telling journalists that she has information that he is critically ill and in a hospital in Minsk.
And, of course, we are working to confirm this information.
My question to you is, if something drastic happens to him, what should your response be and the collective response from the E.U.?
LANDSBERGIS: Well, obviously, it is possible that this information might be true, because we have seen that in the past as well.
It would be a horrendous act of state-sponsored murder of an opposition member, of a journalist that reported about events in Belarus and actually
took a stand against the regime.
E.U. leaders are meeting today and tomorrow to discuss what possible steps could be taken by E.U. And I think that sanctions should be definitely
discussed. And I think that they should be implemented.
And I'm talking about a fourth package in E.U., because we had already three packages of sanctions. But we should also debate about extending it,
and maybe even starting on a new one, on a new package of sanctions.
GOLODRYGA: And while this debate and these meetings continue, we have already heard from the United Kingdom, which has suspended flights coming
into the U.K. from Belarus and is advising that U.K. flights not travel over Belarus.
This was a prompt response that we heard from the U.K. and some strong warnings. And that's leading some to question why we don't hear something
similar sooner from the E.U.
LANDSBERGIS: Well, Lithuania made the same step earlier today.
At around six or seven hours ago, we made a decision that the flights are coming -- that are coming from Belarus that would go through Lithuania or
land in Lithuania can no longer do that. They need to divert, or they need to choose another -- another route and not go through Belarus.
Also, we have -- we're not allowing Belarusian airlines to land in Lithuania. Were hoping that E.U. can agree on similar measures. That means
that all European airlines will not -- will no longer choose Belarus as their route.
If that could be joined by U.S., I think that would be a very strong message as well to the regime.
GOLODRYGA: Have you spoken to your us counterpart, Secretary of State Blinken?
LANDSBERGIS: No, not yet.
GOLODRYGA: Because we do know that American citizens were also on this flight as well.
This does raise a question, though, putting a real test to the E.U. to see how they can combat this aggression, not only from Belarus but also from
Lukashenko's benefactor, and that is Vladimir Putin, breaking legal norms for many years now throughout the region.
Many now wondering whether the E.U. has teeth to actually push back.
I want to read something from the -- today's "Financial Times" that struck me: "Belarus is a small country with a population of just under 10 million.
But this hijacking and kidnap by the Lukashenko regime sets a dangerous global precedent. It will be watched closely by much larger countries that
also like to pursue their domestic enemies overseas, in particular, Russia, which is Belarus' closest ally, China and Iran."
So, given that, how concerned are you that this could set a precedent for other regimes around the world that can see what a small, poor country is
able to do, and they may try to follow suit?
LANDSBERGIS: I think we cannot single out this event as just one thing that happens in the region. We are considering that the region is becoming
evermore unstable because of what is going on in Russia.
We have seen opposition leader Alexei Navalny being poisoned, now being put in jail after the fake trial. We have seen so many members of the
opposition in Russia also put to jail. We have seen similar things in Minsk. We have seen Russian troops by Ukrainian border.
The region is really, really not calm. So, we need not only E.U. reaction, strong reactions, and I'm talking about the sanctions and then strong
messages and being united, but we also need U.S. being present in the region.
We know that the U.S. now, the new administration has many -- many new interests and many positions across the world. But I think that this is
really important to have U.S. administration focus also on the Baltic region.
GOLODRYGA: Do you think that the U.S. is not doing enough to focus on this issue right now?
LANDSBERGIS: Well, I think that -- I think we need to remind about the importance of the region, because, really, this is this is where the
border, as we would like to -- as we are saying, the border between the West and East goes through.
And it's not only the Baltics. It's also the whole Eastern partnership region. You know, it ends up near Armenia or Azerbaijan, where Russia is
trying to force its influence.
And I think that it's all very geopolitical, and we need your political actors here. And E.U. has promised to become a geopolitical union. And I
think it's absolutely the high time to do that. And U.S. also has not to abandon its friends and partners in the region.
GOLODRYGA: What would you like to see the U.S. do? I'm just asking, because Lukashenko seems undeterred, in fact, emboldened by what's
Transpired just today, he signed new laws cracking down on further dissidents and journalists that are participating in protests in Belarus.
He seems emboldened by this. Your Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, said; "The Kremlin has made a comment on this topic before. We're in favor of
assessing the situation and not to rush, not to be in a hurry."
That doesn't seem like they are concerned about any reprisals. So what is it that you would like the U.S. to do? And what can you do to up the ante?
LANDSBERGIS: Well, it's easy for me to say.
I mean, we have been talking about that for quite a while. We would really like to see a permanent us through presence in the region, in the Baltic
region. And, just recently, me and our defense minister, we have sent a letter to our counterparts in Washington, reminding them about this plea
from Lithuania and from our Baltic partners as well.
So, this is really important. The second thing is that U.S. could do more to help Belarusian opposition, and also help the Eastern partnership
countries like Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine, the associated partners of E.U., to really push them on their path of reforms and getting closer to
their transatlantic ambitions and European ambitions as well.
This is where the help from U.S. is really needed.
GOLODRYGA: And we're hearing that some suggesting that there should be more sanctions against Nord Stream II and that pipeline as well issued from
the E.U. The U.S. just relaxed those sanctions last week.
But this is something clearly that would hurt Vladimir Putin if, in fact, this were enforced. Should this be on the table now?
LANDSBERGIS: Well, I can be frank with you. We're really worried about the pipeline, and also about the messages that some sanctions could be eased,
because, from our perspective, it sends the rather wrong signal to Russia and even to Lukashenko that, if the sanctions are eased, that means, that
might mean that more space for them, for their maneuvers are given, not only political, but military.
And we might even see them emboldened and taking some very harsh measures, like now we have seen with that Ryanair flight, exactly after the messages
like easing of sanctions are being sent.
GOLODRYGA: And Vladimir Putin is scheduled to meet with Lukashenko later this week in Sochi as well.
Mr. Foreign Minister, we really appreciate your time during this heightened moment for you.
LANDSBERGIS: Thank you so much.
GOLODRYGA: Thank you so much. And we will continue to follow the story.
And just a note: We are reaching out to Belarusian officials for comment on this story.
But for now, for more on this, I'm joined by Franak Viacorka, a friend of Roman Protasevich and an adviser to exiled opposition leader Svetlana
Tikhanovskaya. Also with us is Anne Applebaum, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author. She's written extensively about Eastern Europe. Her
latest book is called "Twilight of Democracy."
Welcome, both of you.
Franak, let me begin with you, because I do want to hear the latest on your friend, Roman Protasevich, and his condition. What have you heard? You -- I
don't know if you heard the earlier conversation. But there are reports that his mother is saying that he is in a hospital in Minsk.
We have not confirmed that, but that would be an escalatory step. What is your response? And what have you heard?
FRANAK VIACORKA, SENIOR ADVISER TO SVETLANA TIKHANOVSKAYA: Yes, yes, we heard the same information.
Mother and father of Roman received information that he is -- with the problems with heart in one of Mink's hospitals. But we can't prove this
information, because this information came from doctors or from those in medical circles who saw or at least heard that he was brought to the
It doesn't mean that he's released. He's still under arrest. But I knew that he had some problem with heart. And I'm sure that, during the
detention, that, during the interrogation, he could be pressed, pushed, and also potentially tortured.
GOLODRYGA: So, he did have a heart condition? Because that is something that many did not know or were not aware of and sort of questioned that
headline when they see his age, a young man in his 20s.
But he did have a -- he does have a heart condition?
VIACORKA: I'm -- I don't know for sure.
But I know that he was always -- had concerns about his health. And one of his arguments of returning to Belarus and not being detained by
Lukashenko's KGB because he has very weak health. And he was saying that he will not survive if KGB will capture him.
GOLODRYGA: Franak, can you tell us a little bit about Roman and the latest work that he's been doing?
VIACORKA: Roman is a young guy, journalist turned to be activist, very romantical.
He always was dreaming to live in Belarus free and democratic. He -- since he's 17, he was -- participate in all the rallies, marches. And during the
last two, three years, he was managing several very cool media projects on Telegram.
He was collecting videos, pictures. He was working with citizen journalists. And the most important, he was always writing very strong
texts, inspiring people for nonviolent resistance. He always believed that Belarusians must fight for their freedom and democracy.
And he supported this nonviolent revolution that started last August.
GOLODRYGA: And, Anne, you wrote a piece just last year on the social media platform that he works for, the Nexta Live. What can you tell us about this
site and the work that they're doing?
ANNE APPLEBAUM, AUTHOR, "TWILIGHT OF DEMOCRACY": Yes, this was a really unusual and interesting way of conducting -- conducting opposition
demonstrations last summer.
Just for those -- those viewers who don't know, the demonstrations happened in the wake of a presidential election that was stolen. The current
dictator of Belarus ran a very strange campaign, clearly cheated. And the winner or at least, the person who should have who should have been
acknowledged as winning the most votes, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, was eventually forced to flee the country.
But there was a series of demonstrations that went on all summer. And one of the ways that the demonstrations were organized was through these
Telegram panels. Telegram is an app that can be used to reach people. It can be used to post information, videos, and so on.
And Roman, as well as Franak, who we're also speaking to, and others, were working with these channels in order to connect people in Belarus. And they
were important because they weren't shut down by the government. The government couldn't shut them down, although it would have tried to.
They're on people's phones. They're -- and people continued to have access to them even when all other forms of communication and media were shut off.
And it's really important to stress how creative and how cutting-edge the Belarus opposition was, including Roman, how they really used tools of new
technology to reach people and bring them together.
This is a country that had not had a major mass movement like that before, a major democracy movement. And now you can say, I mean, it's really --
it's a movement that has touched almost everybody, people in all walks of life. It's not just the urban cities. It's not just intellectuals. It's not
just educated people.
The work of these very young people really brought together the whole country. And, of course, that's why the dictator hates Roman so much and
that's why he made this extraordinary step, bringing down a commercial airliner, in order to arrest him.
GOLODRYGA: Anne, how big of a crisis is this for the E.U., when you have this poor country is able to do such a drastic thing, where you have an
E.U.-made plane traveling from one E.U. nation to another E.U. nation brought down?
In terms of what this means for the E.U., what kind of a crisis are they in?
APPLEBAUM: It's a really important moment for the E.U., precisely because this is, in fact, one of a series of these kinds of events that's happened
over the last several years.
We have seen Russian -- Russian secret services murdering Russian dissidents, Russian opposition figures all across Europe, actually, most
notably and famously in London and Salisbury.
We have seen Iranian and Chinese attempt to assassinate their citizens abroad. This is another form of what some are calling transnational
repression. In other words, dictatorships are reaching out across their borders in order to murder or arrest or kidnap their citizens or their
exiled or their dissidents.
And the repercussions of this is that, as we saw today and in the last couple of days, is that other -- increasingly, other E.U. citizens, other
people are affected by these attacks, and they create a general sense of lawlessness.
If the E.U. -- and, by the way, this applies to United States and it applies to other democracies -- if we are not able to control what goes on
inside our borders to prevent people from being kidnapped and murdered -- and, sometimes, these are our citizens as well -- then, slowly, the
autocracies of the world gain energy, they gain confidence, they gain the belief that they can do this more and more.
And so, for the E.U., it's a really important moment to draw a line to say, this cannot continue, because other countries are going to be watching what
happens here. As I said, the Russians, the Chinese, the Iranians, they're all watching to see how the E.U. react to this, because this is a tool that
others could eventually use as well.
GOLODRYGA: And global airliners fly over their airspace on a daily basis.
And, Franak, I know that you were on flight just last week with Belarusian exiled opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya on the exact same flight.
You happen to get diverted last minute, but she was on our air yesterday and said that this could have happened to her, had you not been diverted.
This is changing how you consider planning and travel -- traveling as well, is it not?
VIACORKA: Recent information that potential target of the special operation could be Tikhanovskaya, actually, because, exactly one week ago,
Tikhanovskaya was returning from the Delphi Economic Forum in Athens.
She was taking the same flight. And I was with her that moment, and we were flying over Belarus. So, potentially, we could be in prison right now.
Unfortunately, right now, after yesterday incident, no one can feel safe anymore.
After yesterday's incident, Belarus crisis becomes not only a domestic issue, but it becomes a threat to the entire Europe. And this is why
European Union, the Western states must consider broad package of sanctions.
And this reaction must be not only the words, but very concrete road maps, how to isolate the regime on one hand, but also how to support civil
society, because groups such as media, doctors, teachers, students, workers, they continue their fight, but they need technical assistance,
they need support now.
GOLODRYGA: And, Anne, this isn't just a one-off incident.
We can go back many years and look at what these authoritarian regimes, and in particular what Vladimir Putin and his aggressions throughout the region
in poisoning his opponents on European soil, on European land. And, yes, sanctions have been imposed, but clearly not enough to deter him and
prevent him from further actions.
What should be done now, given that we have seen this transpire for so many years? Should there be tougher sanctions, and, by that, I mean, going after
that Nord Stream Pipeline II?
APPLEBAUM: I would think that before Europe touches the Nord Stream pipeline issue, there will have to be some proven link between this event
and the Russian government.
And it's very possible that we will get that. I mean, I doubt very much that Lukashenko would have dared to do this if he didn't have Russian
backing. And there's already been noises of approval from Moscow for this incident.
But I do think that there are -- even before we get there, there's some important things to watch for. One is the banning of the Belarusian
national airline. That may be -- we may be hearing more about that in the next couple of days.
The other is cutting off all flights to be able to Belarus, another possibility. The E.U. is beginning to look at much more serious sanctions
towards -- directed Belarus than it has done before.
But you're right. I mean, if none of these things suffice, if none of them work, then much bigger, much more significant economic actions will
eventually have to be taken. Again, it's in the European states' own interest for there not to be murders, for there not to be planes brought
down, for there not to be these kinds of incidents within their borders.
And we may well see a greater interest certainly in much bigger, much larger kinds of sanctions, including on the Nord Stream pipeline.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. And you're right, there's no direct link now or any evidence suggesting that Russia signed off on this or knew of this or was
aware of it.
But you have to look at what -- the facts we do know. And it was a Russian- made MiG that forced this plane to land. Just a few hours after this took place, the editor in chief of R.T. posted on Facebook that she had never
thought she'd be as jealous as she was of Lukashenko, and congratulated him on his words -- on his work.
There were similar expressions from other members of the Russian Duma. So whether or not this is something that Vladimir Putin knew of ahead of time,
this isn't something that he's condemning.
APPLEBAUM: No. No, he's not.
And it's pretty clear. As I said, Lukashenko has -- now has no friends in Europe. He's in deeper and deeper economic crisis. His economy is
faltering. He may well need military and other kinds of support. It's pretty clear now that the one country he's relying on is Russia, and it is
Russia who will prop him up.
And, by the way, that's another element of the new -- the new form of authoritarianism, is that these countries support one another, prop one
Russia -- Russia backs Venezuela. Iran backs China. These are now -- there's a network of countries who seek to support one another. And for
Belarus, the most important one of those is Russia.
GOLODRYGA: And, Franak, for our viewers around the world, both in the U.S. and in Europe and Asia, when you see something like this take place, what
is your message to them?
They may say, I'm not an opposition leader, so I shouldn't worry about this. Why should this be something that impacts all of us?
VIACORKA: Because Belarusians, who started their revolution last fall, they were fighting for Western values. They were fighting for democracy,
for freedom, for free and fair elections. They were fighting for human rights.
And, right now, with Belarusians in need, they're really expecting that the Western world will be supporting them. Just 30 minutes ago, Svetlana
Tikhanovskaya conducted a call with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan of the United States.
And they discussed how the U.S. can help Belarusians. Before that, two hours ago, there was a call with Josep Borrell. And I feel confident,
because we see and we hear the words of support. But, sometimes, words are not enough.
We need real actions. And Belarusians need to understand that they're not alone in their fight for freedom and democracy.
GOLODRYGA: Well, Franak and Anne, thank you so much for your time.
This is something like a horror scene out of a movie that no one could have expected. And we saw it take place before eyes yesterday. We will continue
to cover this story extensively.
And, of course, we're all thinking about Roman and hoping that he is OK.
Thank you so much for joining us.
Well, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is on his way to the Middle East today to meet with Palestinian and Israeli officials as the cease-fire
between Israel and Hamas appears to be holding. Over the weekend, many Gazans got their first real look at the devastation brought by the 11 days
of fighting. And now begins the daunting and familiar task of rebuilding.
Ben Wedeman reports.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Not for the first time, and probably not for the last, Gaza is digging out. It's
over, for now. The rubble will be cleared and perhaps the damage repaired, yet one manmade catastrophe after another has taken a heavy toll.
Not far from the wall separating Gaza from Israel, children of the extended family Attar (ph) search for traces of a life shattered.
Azma Attar's aunt and three children were crushed to death when a bomb slammed into her home.
"Because the bombing around us was so intense, doors and windows were falling on us. We ran to the inner room," she recalls. "The last bomb was
on this house." Azma was able to crawl free.
The people in this area are mostly farmers, but their land often used by militants to fire rockets into Israel. In the Aude (ph) hospital, plastic
and reconstructive surgeon Ghassan Abu Sittah is conducting one of eight operations on this day.
He first traveled to Gaza as a young medical student in the 1980s and has come back regularly ever since, his task here never-ending.
DR. GHASSAN ABU SITTAH, RECONSTRUCTIVE SURGEON: You start running into patients who are injured in multiple attacks. So, I have had patients who
had injuries in the 2014 war, and then were injured in the great return marches, or injured in previous conflicts, and then again in this conflict.
And so you have a kind of -- it becomes like an endemic disease. War injuries become like an endemic disease in Gaza.
WEDEMAN: In the Sheikh Zayed neighborhood, Rezek Abu Safia (ph) waits for a truck to take his furniture away, his home still intact after bombs
obliterated the buildings just next door, but it's now in danger of collapse.
Sisyphus struggled to push the boulder up the hill, only for it to roll to the bottom, only to push it back up all over again. The relief of surviving
this war no guarantee you will make it through the next, says Gaza resident Rima Abu Rahmah.
ABU RAHMAH: There is no other option. We have to keep living. We have to rebuild it again and again until, one day, maybe we can be free.
WEDEMAN: In the absence of some sort of resolution, such is Gaza's fate.
GOLODRYGA: And that fate just has to change.
Struck by those words of that doctor: The war injuries are an endemic disease.
It was hard to watch, but so important.
Thanks to Ben Wedeman from -- reporting from Gaza.
And now, it's not just conflict that destroys people's homes, the climate crisis is also forcing thousands around the world to flee as their homes
become uninhabitable. Our next guest is Abrahm Lustgarten, a Pulitzer prizewinning environmental reporter. He spent years looking at how climate
migration will reshape the world. Here he is talking with our Hari Sreenivasan about his latest project.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Briana, thanks. Abrahm, thanks for joining us. Usually, you know, when I am talking to friends and
people are -- we're having a conversation about how the world is constantly on the move, I usually say, you know, people are motivated by conflict,
cash or climate.
And conflict and cash are easy for people to understand. And you take a fascinating dive into how the world is already on the move and how that's
going to get much more intense in the next few years, almost regardless of where you are on the planet.
ABRAHM LUSTGARTEN, SENIOR ENVIRONMENTAL REPORTER, PROPUBLICA: Yes. Thank you.
I mean, this is a project to look at migration related to climate change. And, you know, I think we talk so much about how the climate is changing in
scientific terms or ecological terms but not so much about how people experience that or how people will respond to that.
And the fact is, you know, climate determines our comfort, it determines our water supply and our food supply, and those are the drivers that lead
people to either stay where they live or to move. And all of the predictors point to really significant large-scale movement of populations in the
future and beginning now.
SREENIVASAN: Along this trail, you basically follow people as they're leaving say Guatemala and moving north, you're also finding how not just
impoverished but hungry people are.
LUSTGARTEN: You know, I went to Central America with a real kind of analytical mind-set. I thought that I would try to understand how migration
would stem from climate change by getting into people's decision-making.
And I of expected, you know, we have this list of pros and cons and they'd be weighing this decision in a rationale or pragmatic way. And -- you know,
and what I found was quite the opposite. That by the time someone was thinking of actually moving, of uprooting their family or leaving their
family and moving across borders, it was act of sheer desperation and it stemmed from just absolute hunger and poverty.
And, you know, the communities in Guatemala, just like elsewhere in the world, are on the edge of famine, and the potential for that famine in that
region is explosive. And one of the trades that we learn from the United Nations and others who study climate driven migration is that it's not
usually a choice and it's not usually a preference, it's usually a decision of last resort, that people prefer to stay close, they're attached to their
communities, and when they move, it's because they have absolutely no other choice.
SREENIVASAN: Tell me a little bit about some of the people that you met along the way that were kind of the canaries in the coal mine, if you will,
of this trend that's happening in Central America, Delmira de Jesus Cortez.
LUSTGARTEN: So, you know, when I met this woman in San Salvador and learned her story, it didn't automatically sound like, you know, she was a,
you know, person affected by climate. She had experienced a lot of violence, her husband had been killed in a conflict with local gangs, the
Mara Salvatrucha gang is extremely influential in San Salvador and across El Salvador. That violence is normally attributed for -- to driving the
migration that comes from that part of Central America to the United States.
But when you get a little bit deeper into her story, found out that she -- her life is also dramatically affected by changes in climate. So, she had
come from a rural area near the Guatemalan border and El Salvador. And her family, her parents had worked as laborers in the coffee plantations that
are there. And climate had created a blight -- a fungus disease that was affecting the coffee crops and coffee could no longer be grown. And the
origins of their poverty stemmed from that change, which is directly tied to climate.
They then tried to expand their farming and grow different crops, but there's a shortage of water linked to drought, linked to change in El Nino
patterns climate, linked to climate. And those are the things that led her to migrate from her rural area into San Salvador where she then, you know,
felt prey to that gang violence and deeper into poverty.
And so, you know, this sort of exercise of learning to look, you know, beneath the, you know, layers of the various things that had influenced her
situation, to understand that, you know, climate and environmental change was as much a driving factor in her life experience and her desire to
migrate to the United States as was the violence and the things we typically, you know, attribute pressures on U.S. border to.
SREENIVASAN: What kind of numbers are we talking here? I mean, paint that picture for us and why people are so pressured to leave?
LUSTGARTEN: So, our modeling suggested, you know, about a million migrants driven -- influenced at least in some way by climate out of Central America
towards the United States each year. It sounds like an extraordinary number but it's actually close to the number of migrants we see on the border now.
It is a little bit greater than pressures that we see now.
But what's significant is to imagine that continuing potentially growing consistently over the next 30 years. So, your cumulative impact is, you
know, 30 million or so people moving to the United States. Globally, the estimates for the number of people that will be displaced by climate are
extraordinary and they're growing. So, you know, the United Nations counts about 30 million displaced people in 2020 alone. The World Bank estimates
about 150 million will be displaced by climate within their countries by 2050. But those numbers seem extraordinarily low.
In our analysis, we worked with researchers who had published and studied last year in the proceedings in the National Academy of Sciences that
essentially suggests one-third of the planet's population will be faced with this decision, you know, whether to move and where to go. That study
looked at, you know, where humanity has existed for the past 6,000 years and found that we, people, live in a relatively narrow band of
environmental conditions and that band is moving for the first time, you know, in those millennium.
And as that happens, about 2 billion of today's people, 3 billion of, you know, the population in 2070 will live outside of that zone, in places
that, you know, we would have described as unlivable. It doesn't mean they'll all move, but it's very likely that a large number of them will
move. So, we're really talking about, you know, population change on the order of billions of people.
SREENIVASAN: There are massive ripple effects on the geopolitical scale. So, let's just stay with Central America for a second. If people uproot
themselves because they have no access to food or work and they start moving north, even before they get to the U.S. border, all of the countries
along the way are going to feel this.
LUSTGARTEN: Yes. So, I mean, movement of populations is just plain unsettling. You know, and I looked at the process, they call it, you know,
step wise migration. So, people move our rural areas, they move first to cities and they later decide to move across borders. And maybe their eyes
in that movement are on making it all the way to the United States. Maybe it's just the goal of making it somewhere else and maybe that somewhere
else is Mexico.
And as part of my reporting, I spent significant time in Southern Mexico just looking at what was happening in their communities as thousands, tens
of thousands of migrants transited through that region. And it was really a case study, you know, in an extraordinary transformation.
Mexican people were, you know, I think at heart and philosophically, sympathetic to migrants and their goals and that changed so quickly as
those people weighed on local communities and it changed what the infrastructure could handle in terms of waste, it changed what was
available for food supply, crime rates went up. There are all sorts of pressures that just come with a large and transient population.
And that's kind of typical and you see that around the world that the movement of people is unsettling, before they even get to their
destinations. And then, of course, you know, it can be very unsettling, you know, if not carefully planned for -- at the end point of those journeys as
well, and we that, you know, today on the Southern U.S. border.
SREENIVASAN: So, should this factor into -- when we think of climate policy, should we be also thinking of immigration policy or national
security as part of this formula?
LUSTGARTEN: Yes. Absolutely. I mean, the lesson that I take away from my reporting on climate in general and migration specifically is that it all
relates to one another and it has to be seen in sort of this braided fashion.
And I think you're starting to see some of that, you know, in the Biden administration's approach to what's happening on the border now as well,
where, you know, it's a very sticky and complicated issue to decide what happens, you know, with immigrants at the U.S. border, but they recognize
the importance of, you know, a multi-pronged approach where there's an increase in aid investment and things that might, for example, help food
production down in Southern -- you know, Guatemala.
And so, you know, that's just one small example, you know, of the way that you can start to see things intertwined. But, I think, going forward, you
know, climate is a part of defense policy, it's a part of immigration policy, it's a part of trade, it's a part of just about everything.
SREENIVASAN: Part two of your series was interesting in the sense that most Americans don't think that climate migration would actually happen
here inside this country. They say, oh, yes. I understand why Central Americans would want to move up because they're closer to the equator, et
cetera. But you lay out in painstaking detail how this is happening, and you really -- let's start talking first about the state that you're in
right now, California.
LUSTGARTEN: Yes. I mean, I live just north of San Francisco. And, you know, we've had really consequential wildfires seasons the last three or
four years in a row, it's gotten significantly worse, among many other climate pressures that -- you know, that our community faces. But, you
know, it's a real threat that I lived through it. It was a subtle threat that I thought about as I was, you know, working on this project early on.
And as my project cycle turned a year and I went through my second fire season while writing it, you know, I found myself faced with the
possibility of evacuating, faced with decision-making of, you know, is California the right place for me to live? Should I be, you know, looking
to head elsewhere in the United States? And where would that be? And realizing that that decision-making process was really a little different
from, you know, the farmers that I had -- was spending time with in rural parts of Guatemala, situation.
You know, obviously, in the United States, it's so much less extreme, our privilege, my privilege is so much greater than that, but there's a
parallel. And, you know, what the common thread is, is that the changing environment is changing our decisions relative to our circumstances about
where we live. And if you look at the specific physical climate threats that the United States will face, again, they won't be as severe as other
parts of the world, but they're significant for us here.
And if you map those threats, which is what we did as part of my project, you look at sea level rise coming from the coast and hurricane pressures,
you know, along the gulf and the east coast, and the wildfires in the west and so on, places across the country that are left untouched are suggested
-- are, you know, least at risk are really relatively small, and you can start to see the potential for really significant change in where Americans
live and shifting the population.
And you look a little bit deeper and start feeling that layers of that issue and you see that people are already moving. The numbers are small-
ish, but they're getting bigger.
SREENIVASAN: There's also an increased urbanization, you know, of these projections, that big cities are going to get bigger.
LUSTGARTEN: So, this is a pattern that we see worldwide and is going to characterize the change that we see in the United States as well. People
move out of rural areas and towards cities and seek the services that those cities can provide.
And I think that, you know, what's beginning to happen in the United States and what I see, you know, happening over the next couple decades is that
rural areas or even small communities, small municipalities, you know, will not have everything from, you know, the capital, the tax base that they
need, the human capital and expertise to guide transition, to build resilience, to invest in, you know, mitigation measures that are going to
be required to, you know, confront the change that they face.
And, you know, as that happens, people will increasingly find those services in concentrated areas, which mean big cities.
SREENIVASAN: You know, you point out in the piece acutely that there will be projected water shortages West of Missouri, and on the other hand, there
will be too much water along the coasts. I mean, we have to kind of find sort of a goldilocks zone where there's enough water to drink and at the
same time it's not drowning us.
LUSTGARTEN: Yes. Absolutely. I mean, water is fascinating in terms of climate change, both for, you know, the scarcity that we will all face in
terms of fresh water and, you know, usable water for drinking, for example. But also, the way in which climate change will, you know, not just bring
sort of what everybody thinks of as, you know, heat and drought, but will bring greater extremes.
You know, we talked about these mega rain events, you know, in the northern part of the Midwest that if it just increasing in frequency the last couple
years, they've led to lake levels of the great lakes, Lake Michigan, to rise, you know, about a foot a year. It's faster than sea level rise on the
coast. And all of our focus goes to, you know, sea level rise as, you know, the icecaps melt, but we have, you know, lake level rise, you know, that's
just as significant.
You know, I think the bottom line is that climate is going to change everywhere, you know, Americans and people around the world are going to
need to figure out how to mitigate that where they can, retreat where they need to, you know, and adapt to those changing circumstances.
And, you know, it's going to be on a sliding scale where in some places, adaptation might mean that a place becomes unlivable and you have to move.
You know, maybe I don't want to live in, you know, a wildfire zone. But in other places, you know, adaptation might mean a much more subtle
adjustment. But few places will be untouched.
SREENIVASAN: When you look at policies, I mean, the U.S. refused to join 164 other countries in signing a migration treaty in 2018. At the same
time, the U.S. has cut back on aid that would help some of families who are struggling right now. So, what should the Biden administration do?
LUSTGARTEN: I mean, I -- you know, I think the lesson for me through all this research is that, you know, the more that's done in a very multi-
facetted and diverse way and the faster that it's done, the better. So, I guess what that means is they should do everything and do it quickly.
But, you know, my bias which, you know, is a result of our modeling and extraordinary amount of research is that, you know, more open borders, more
receptive policies have a positive net result, they improve, you know, security and stability for the United States or for, you know, developed
countries and they improve livelihoods and stability of origin countries.
And I mean, you can see that in a number of examples. And Syria is one that comes up frequently where, you know, there's roots to the Syrian conflict,
you know, a decade ago in the same environmental change where you -- you know, you saw, you know, pastoral communities having a difficult time
raising their animals. And so, they rapidly urbanize and that urbanization led to pressures that led to -- you know, or at least contributed to, you
know, the uprising there.
Nations faced a decision then, Europe, about, you know, what kind of aid to provide and how to, you know, help address the drought that Syrians were
facing, and they chose not to. You know, I think that's a cautionary tale for what we do going forward. You know, and so, again, that foreign aid is
an option and I would like to see, you know, our administration and modern administrations, you know, take that route, you know, and do pragmatic,
manageable controlled but open border policies, I think, you know, are necessary to allow a sort of healthy flow around the world.
I mean, after all, like, you know, migrations always happen and it always will. In any sense, it's a very natural adaptation to our environments
around us and, you know, borders are a modern construct that, you know, prohibit that from happening.
SREENIVASAN: Abrham Lustgarten, thanks so much for joining us.
LUSTGARTEN: Thanks so much for your interest. I appreciate it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: It is a crisis that touches just about every part of the world. Our thanks to Hari.
And finally, happy 80th birthday, Bob Dylan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: From "Like a Rolling Stone" to "Forever Young," Dylan's genius still resonates with millions all around the world. He is the first, and to
this day, the only musician to ever win the Nobel Prize in Literature. And with me now to discuss the significance of his music and career is NPR's
music critic, Ann Powers. She contributed to the new anthology of "The World of Bob Dylan."
Thank you so much for joining us, Ann. We've all really been looking forward to this conversation.
Let's start with the man himself. He has been called and described as the most interesting and yet hard to understand person in pop culture. And yet,
he is still very much alive, and it continues to work. Why is it so hard to crack him all these years later?
ANN POWERS, CRITIC, NPR MUSIC: I think the thing about Bob Dylan as an artist, as a persona, as a star is that he has tried in a way to be
anonymous. It's a word he invokes a lot. He wants to be a filter, a channel for all of world culture, in a way, all of American culture certainly. And
yet, at the same time, he's operating within rock and roll. So, he has to strike a pose. You know, he has to have a persona.
So, what we get is the shifting persona over many, many decades now. And who is the central Bob Dylan? There is none, but that's the beauty of that.
GOLODRYGA: We always hear about artists trying to reinvent themselves, those that have been around for decades that continue to release new music
and the focus is on what else can they do to attract a new generation. Would you say that Bob Dylan has reinvented himself or the new generations
are just attracted to him?
POWERS: You know, it's so funny, Brianna, because 20 years ago I wrote a piece about Bob Dylan that asked the question, who is the new Bob Dylan?
It's something constantly asked about him. You know, what artist sort of inherits this mantle? And I concluded then that he is always the new Bob
Dylan. Dylan himself. And even now, in 2020, 2021, in these years, he's still putting out albums. He will tour again, I believe, even into his 80s.
And he continues to refine and put his persona on its end, you know, like change it all the time.
Most recently, he is acting as a living archive in a sense. His songs are packed with references. His last album had a single called "Murder Most
Foul" that had 70 references to other songs in it. And he is enjoying being his own archive.
GOLODRYGA: And in terms of being called voice of a generation, I mean, he addressed this too, because this is something that he was labeled in 1962,
and it sort of stuck so many years on. I believe we have a soundbite of him talking about this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB DYLAN: Tommy, can you hear me? I'm the Acid Queen. I'm riding in a long, black Lincoln limousine. Riding in the backseat next to my wife.
Heading straight on in to the afterlife.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: So, I was wrong. I was actually going to just read from an interview that he gave to NPR about that label, being called the voice of a
generation. We'll come back to that. That was my mistake.
But let's talk about what we just heard because this was his most recent album, "Rough and Rowdy Ways." It hit number one on Billboard Artist 100
Chart. And this single, it's 17 minutes long and it's an exploration of JFK's assassination, and it invokes so many other cultural figures just in
those few lines. Can you talk to us a little about that?
POWERS: Yes. As I just mentioned, "Murder Most Foul" has at least 70 references to other songs, there are references to historical figures. My
colleague at NPR Music, Bob Biolen, and I went through and documented all the songs. And at some point, we actually just had to stop because there
were so many. And as I said, I think this is Dylan being his own living archive and wanting so much to be a channel for culture, which, you know,
you could say is in some ways problematic.
I mean, Bob Dylan is, you know, a straight white male and he's expressing his own identity, but he is trying to be an open book and to kind of
represent and oracularly offer his vision of what culture and history means. And he does that very much on the most recent work.
GOLODRYGA: Which is, obviously, what led to him being awarded the Nobel Prize. And I want to go back to what he said shortly after he won the prize
about being called the voice of a generation. And this is what I want to read to you. He said to NPR in 2016, I think that was just a term that can
create problems for somebody, especially if someone just wants to keep it simple and write songs and play them. Having these colossal accolades and
titles, they get in the way. Is that something that he viewed as a hinderance?
POWERS: Well, you know, here's the thing. When Bob Dylan started out his career as a teenager, he wanted to play with Little Richard. He wanted to
be a rock and roller. He became a folk singer in part because that was what was happening at the time. And as quickly as he could, he moved beyond folk
music and protest and, you know, that kind of significant serious music and went back to rock and roll.
I think what he gets from rock and roll and from many black American musicians who have inspired him, and there are so many, is a sense of
playfulness, of fun, of seriousness and fun combined in the music. That is always there in Bob Dylan.
And him winning the Nobel Prize, while a beautiful thing, kind of narrows our idea of him. And even narrowing our idea of him as a poet I think is
wrong. He's much a storyteller, a classic bard, someone, you know, kind of like offering us the 360 view of culture, and he's just a rock and roller,
you know. He likes to get out there and play.
GOLODRYGA: He is indefinable. I mean, I guess that's sort of just where we are. It's hard to pin him down to one area where you can define him and say
who he is all of these years later.
And I was struck by -- the "New York Times" has a piece, obviously, commemorating his birthday as well, but referring to him as our most
underappreciated comic. Had a real sense of humor too, and still does, and that's something that may be underappreciated and maybe people didn't
acknowledge it or understand it. But beneath so much of his work and his presence is pure joy and a little bit of humor.
POWERS: Absolutely. And that comes straight from the blues and straight from his -- the influence of beat poetry, surrealist art. One of my
favorite lyrics of his comes from a song called "Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat" that it's just a little -- a tiny little song on the immensely long album
blogged on blog.
And it's on aLightnin' Hopkins' song called "Automobile Blues," I think and there's a lyric in it where he's talking about this woman wearing a hat and
he says, you balance it on your head just like a mattress balances on a bottle of wine. What a ridiculous image, you know, and yet, somehow it
works. It is like Marsha and Marcel Duchamp's artwork, right? It's like -- it's surreal, it's absurd, and yet, it's perfect.
GOLODRYGA: It's something you can't replicate, right? It's unique to Dylan. And I love that you say your favorite first Dylan song was "Love
Minus Zero/No Limit."
GOLODRYGA: And I know that you were going to recite just a few words for us, a few lyrics if you don't mind.
POWERS: When I was in high school, I wrote these lyrics on the back of an envelope, stuffed them in a cocktail glass and left it on my dresser for
several years to inspire me, pull them out. And here's just a few lyrics from that song. In the dime stores and bus stations, people talk of
situations, read books, repeat quotations, draw conclusions on the wall. Some speak of the future. My love, she speaks softly. She knows there's no
success like failure and that failure is no success at all.
In those words, he introduced me Zen Cowens (ph). He introduced me to so many ways to look at the world. And I just want to say thank you, Bob. I'm
glad you're still with us.
GOLODRYGA: And I can only imagine how many people have a similar moment that they say inspired them from just some beautiful lyrics, some quirky
lyrics at times only Bob Dylan could write.
Thank you so much, Ann, for joining us. And happy 80th birthday, Bob Dylan, Keep working. Keep writing away.
And that's it for us now. Thanks so much for watching and good-bye from New York.